Thursday, October 29, 2009

Right to the City

I recently received the fall 2009 newsletter of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.  Among many timely and interesting articles, the newsletter includes a piece titled "Right to the City: Social Movement and Theory."  The Right to the City has received relatively limited scholarly treatment in the United States but enjoys a wider following in other countries.  That said, there is a growing domestic movement characterized by national conferences and local grassroots action.  The article describes the context for a focus on the Right to the CIty: "The emergence of the city as a central site of social struggle is linked closely to the unprecedented growth of urban populations alongside an equally dramatic increase in urban inequality and poverty."  The article also cites French philosopher Henri Lefebvre's 1968 work, Le Droit a La Ville (Right to the City) as a major influence on the current movement.

The article describes a number of grassroots Right to the City projects focused mainly on anti-displacement and anti-gentrification efforts.  Those new to the movement will find Don Mitchell's book, The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space, to be a useful resource. Similarly, the Right to the City (RTTC) Alliance has a useful website.  Peter Marcuse wrote a wonderful article focusing on cities and security issues after 9/11 (The "Threat of Terrorism" and the Right to the City, 32 Fordham Urb. L.J. 767 (2005)) and I have written a comparative piece on the United States and Brazil (Finding a Right to the City: Exploring Property and Community in Brazil and in the United States, 39 Vand. J. Transnat'l L. 435 (2006)).

In short, the Right to the City movement provides a voice and direction to urban communities searching for economic resources and better avenues to effectively participate in local decisionmaking.

Ngai Pindell

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